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Public Artwork

The Lost Petition

Content Warning: This project mentions violence against women and children. This project also contains the names of some Indigenous women and children lost to male violence. 

 

In Australia, on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. We need to see all levels of government improve policies, housing, support services, education and introduce initiatives in an effort to prevent violence against women and children.

 

The Lost Petition is an ongoing textile artwork that lists women and children who have lost their lives to male violence in Australia from 2008. This work is 30 metres long and proceeds to grow in length as women and children’s lives continue to be lost to male violence.

 

The Lost Petition is a clear call to our Federal Government and to all Australians to change the culture. These women and children can no longer vote, they have unjustly lost their right for representation and to have their voices heard by our Government. Their right to suffrage, that was fought for and won by brave women, did not protect them from male violence.

 

Behind every name there was once a living, breathing women or child, someone whose death is entirely preventable, The Lost Petition brings visibility and is a call to action to make radical and systematic change.

Please note: This work is underpinned by the research by Sherele Moody of The Red Heart Campaign and the Australian Femicide and Child Death Map.

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The Lost Petition, 2022. Queens Hall, Parliament of Victoria, Australia. Photo credit Dans Bain.

The Lost Petition, International Women’s Day 2021

Burston Reserve, Melbourne, Wurundjeri Country, Australia.

The Lost Petition was first installed on a rainy International Women's Day on March 8, 2021 at Burston Reserve situated behind Parliament House in Melbourne. The artwork spans 30 meters in length, running the entire length of the footpath that intersects ‘The Great Petition’ sculpture.

 

The Lost Petition references to the 'Women's Suffrage Petition' from 1891, which contained nearly 30,000 signatures calling for women's right to vote in the colony of Victoria. 'The Great Petition' by Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee, was created in 2008 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in Victoria.

The Lost Petition, March 4 Justice 2021

Treasury Gardens, Melbourne, Wurundjeri Country, Australia.

 

Feedback from the The Lost Petition on International Women’s Day had been emotional and heartfelt, yet brewing underneath it all was anger. Grace Tame had been awarded Australian of the Year for 2021 and there was pressure building to see change from the federal government.

The March 4 Justice Rally was organised following the perceived lack of response by the Australian federal government to the reporting that a political staffer, Brittany Higgins, was allegedly raped in Australia's parliament house in Canberra, and that historical allegations of rape were made against the country's Attorney General, Christian Porter during his youth.

 

I made the decision to take The Lost Petition to the March 4 Justice rally in Melbourne. 

Photography credit Debbie Qadri, Justin McManus and Mike Russo

The Lost Petition, March 4 Justice 2022
Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne, Wurundjeri Country, Australia.

Following the March 4 Justice in 2021, the organisers of the M4J event requested that The Lost Petition be present at the March 4 Justice event in 2022. 

 

The 2022 March was scaled back and largely symbolic, due the COVID pandemic and organisers aiming to keep attendees safe. Bronwyn Currie, the organiser of the Melbourne March 4 Justice, called on supporters to bear witness to the women and children who have lost their lives to gendered violence. 

 

Wearing all black, with a teal ribbon on their wrists; attendees were asked to line Bourke Street, allow The Lost Petition to pass, and then fall in behind the artwork. 

A rousing and emotional applause rippled across the growing crowd, as the petition crossed the Bourke Street Mall. 

From the County Court, the sombre procession was accompanied by the Newham Drummers, providing driving beats as the soundtrack to the march up Bourke St to gather at the steps of Parliament House, Melbourne. 

 

From this day onwards I continue to add the names of women and children who have lost their lives to gendered violence to the petition. I'd like to thank my team of volunteers for their support in carrying The Lost Petition at the M4J 2022 event.

Please note: This work is underpinned by the research by Sherele Moody of The Red Heart Campaign and the Australian Femicide and Child Death Map.

The Lost Petition, Parliament of Australia 2022

Canberra, Ngunnawal Country, Australia.

 

In preparation to take The Lost Petition to Parliament House in Canberra, a call out seeking support to get the work to Canberra raised $2,248 on GoFundMe. 

In the weeks leading up to the event numerous health organizations, charities, politicians and senate candidates were contacted; it was important that there be bipartisan support for the issue of male violence against women and children.

Greens MP Larissa Waters and Labor MP Ged Kearney were very supportive in the lead up to the event. 

 

On March 28 2022, the day before budget day The Lost Petition was unfurled outside Parliament House. 

Greens Senate candidate Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng, Independent Senate candidate Kim Rubenstein, Labor MPs Tanya Plibersek, Ged Kearney, Libby Coker and David Smith all came out in support of The Lost Petition. Notably absent were any representatives from the Liberal National Party. 

 

A number of individuals and organisations showed their support including The STOP Campaign, Sherele Moody from The RED HEART Campaign, Amnesty International, ANU, March 4 Justice, YWCA, John Herron (Father to Courtney Herron) and Sally Stevenson from Illawarra Women’s Health Centre. 

 

This call to action to the Morrison Government the day before budget day signals that the government needs to make substantial changes in support of women. This includes reviewing sexual assault laws, introducing a national gender equity act and increasing funding for DV support and social housing. Also calling on more adequate funding for marginalised groups, this includes access to culturally appropriate legal services and social support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

 

It is time for long-lasting systematic real world change in the way that we deal with male violence, and I think it starts with prevention and proper funding for services. The government needs to address gender inequality in all aspects of society.

 

 

SPECIAL THANKS TO…

Sherele Moody, Lara Bovo, John Herron, Annick Akanni, Mike Russo, Ginger Gorman, Karen Pickering, John and Cathy Bain, the Jenkins Family, Tony and Marjie Russo, Peta Swarbrick, Ian Cutmore, Tim Singleton Norton, Kate Parker (Atlas PR) and Sandra Naylor (website). 

The Lost Petition, Aboriginal Tent Embassy 2022
 Ngunnawal Country, Canberra, Australia.

The Lost Petition contains the names of First Nations women and children and it was important that I visit the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.

 

It was at the embassy that I met Gwenda Stanley and was invited to unfurl The Lost Petition on the lawn of the embassy. Gwenda was so gracious with her time; we discussed the impacts of colonialism, violence and intergenerational trauma on First Nations people. 

Gwenda asked me to explain The Lost Petition so that she could share the work with the Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s online community.

 

First Nations women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised after assault compared to other women and Indigenous women are 11 times more likely to die from assault than non-indigenous women in Australia.

It is vital that there be investment in Indigenous health and education, this includes services that are culturally informed, and improved access to social housing and legal services.